Sony Awarded $800,000 From TIkTok Rapper Over Unlicensed Sample


A TikTok rapper has been ordered to pay Sony Music just over $800,000 for copyright infringement involving one of his songs, according to court documents filed on Wednesday.

Last year, Sony sued Trefuego, a 20-year-old Arizona resident whose real name is Dantreal Clark-Rainbolt, over his 2019 song “90mh.” The song featured a sample from the Sony-owned 1986 song “Reflections” by Japanese composer Toshifumi Hinata, and while “90mh” garnered more than 100 million Spotify streams and was featured in over 150,000 TikToks according to the suit, Trefuego hadn’t requested any licensing from Sony for the sample.

Sony had reached out as early as January 2021 regarding the issue, the company said in its suit, but it claimed Trefuego “ignored Plaintiffs’ demands that his infringing conduct be discontinued and remedied,” and the song remained live until Sony issued a takedown in August 2022.

“In copying the ‘Reflections’ musical composition and sound recording, Trefuego brazenly sought to ride the coattails of Hinata’s creativity and popularity without regard to the United States copyright laws or the rights of Plaintiffs,” Sony claimed in its initial complaint.

Trefuego did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment, and Sony declined to comment. The news was first reported by Billboard.

In total, Sony was awarded nearly $803,000, tied most directly to the more than $700,000 in revenue Trefuego generated on “90mh.” As Billboard previously reported, Sony had for months struggled to locate and serve Trefuego to such a degree that the judge presiding over the suit allowed the company to reach out through DM on his social media accounts instead.

In a memorandum filed Wednesday, Judge Mark Pittman acknowledged the young rapper’s lack of power and stature compared to Sony, the second largest music company on the planet, calling him a “small fish.” But he also pointed toward Trefuego’s apparent lack of cooperation on the case.

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“Some may query the wisdom of pursuing a claim against a relatively small fish like Trefuego, but that fact does not render Sony’s motivation improper or their lawsuit unreasonable,” Pittman wrote. “In fact, the only unreasonable behavior in this case was Defendant’s, as his consistent attempts to evade service and eschew meaningful communications stymied case progress and drove up Sony’s costs.

“While it can be daunting for many defendants to appear in federal court or respond to service of process, the only wrong answer in such circumstances is refusal to respond or to comply with court orders,” Pittman continued. “You can run from process servers, but you can’t hide from the law… Defendant drove up Sony’s costs; now he has to pay them.”



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